Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii and Alaska during the same year. Alaska gained statehood just eight months before Hawaii, and they are the only states not contiguous with the rest of the United States. The fact is, Hawaii and Alaska have an ancient relationship far beyond coincidence. There are accounts of interactions between Alaskan and Hawaiian natives predating the arrival of Captain Cook such as trading furs, forming whaling routes, and even migration. These relationships are present through the various gold rushes of the 1800s until today. Pacific Islanders comprise the largest growing ethnic community in Alaska over the past two decades and the evidence is clear; in Anchorage alone you can spot a Polynesian florist, various Hawaiian restaurants, and a small handful of Samoan churches. If you look a little harder in some convenience stores, you’ll find the piece of culinary heaven brought to us from the south Pacific, the Hawaiian delicacy known simply as ‘musubi’.

All over Hawaii, as well as a few Anchorage convenience stores, you will find various types of musubi, a brick of rice topped with protein (most commonly SPAM) and wrapped in roasted seaweed known as nori. As strange as it may sound, it is the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and savory. It’s quite filling, and is perfect for breakfast, a quick lunch, or a midnight snack. It’s even rumored to cure a hangover. If SPAM is not be your first choice when it comes to tasty treats, musubi is also often cooked with chicken, pork, egg, or even hotdogs. Today, however, we are going to fuse my favorite Hawaiian treat with Alaskan Silver Salmon served with a wasabi slaw sweetened with apples and Alaskan carrots.

Three people stand in a line, holding arms with silver salmon in hand at different height, giving the appearance of one person with six arms each holding a salmon.
Courtesy Andrew Maxwell.

For the slaw

  • 2 large Alaskan carrots, shredded
  • 1 honeycrisp apple, shredded
  • ¼ c rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2t wasabi paste
  • 2t sugar (optional for a sweeter slaw)
  • 1T black sesame seeds
  • Small handful cilantro, chopped

Combine vinegar, wasabi, and sugar (optional) in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add shredded carrots, apples, and sesame seeds. Toss to combine and coat thoroughly with vinegar solution. Add cilantro and taste for salt.

rice vinegar, sriracha, and three chunks of salmon
Courtesy Andrew Maxwell.

For the musubi

  • 2, 6oz  silver salmon filets (I use tailpieces because they are thinner and fatty)
  • 1c sushi rice
  • ½ c rice vinegar, divided
  • 2t sugar
  • 2t salt
  • ¼ c brown sugar
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 2t sriracha
  • 1 sheet of nori, cut into four equal strips
  • Salt and pepper

Combine ¼ c rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sriracha in a bowl and whisk together. Cut each salmon filet in two equal pieces and cover with vinegar solution, marinate for 4 hours. I like to cook my salmon with the skin on, if you prefer your salmon without skin, remove it prior to marinating. 

Wash rice and cook according to package directions, while fluffing the rice add ¼ c rice vinegar, 2t salt and, 2t sugar for seasoning.

Dry salmon with a paper towel and place skin side down on a lightly oiled, smoking hot skillet. After about 3-4 minutes flip the fish to reveal beautiful and crispy skin, the perfect contrast to our soft rice. Finish cooking salmon (2-3 min) and set aside. 

Using a musubi mold or even your hands press rice into four bricks or balls roughly the same size as your salmon pieces and top rice with the salmon skin side up. Wrap nori around the musubi and you are ready to serve alongside your beautiful slaw.


Andrew Maxwell is the chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Email Andrew at [email protected]

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